Proverbs 13:9 ESV
The light of the righteous rejoices, but the lamp of the wicked will be put out.
One central theme of the book of Proverbs is the superiority of the eternal to the temporary, of that which is God’s to that which is man’s. This proverb continues the trend, highlighting the difference between the God-granted light of the righteous and the pale imitation which the wicked derive through common grace.
God gives to His people a metaphorical light which His people then declare to each other, to Him, and to the world, a light declarative of His glory, His love, His mercy, His sovereignty (John 15:26-27). This is a light which is not quenched (Romans 8:38-39); this is a light which shines forth in imitation of God (Genesis 1:27; Revelations 22:5). This light is given to the Christian by God that he may be a witness to the world of His glory (Luke 24:44-49; John 15:26-27), and for it to vanish from the Christian would require the apostasy of the elect, which is impossibly, for man has no power to overcome the saving grace of God (Romans 8). It may dim for a time; here on earth we are still in sin, both able to sin and (for the righteous) able to not sin. The light may be obscured by sin, but it cannot be obliterated or truly darkened, for it is of God and not of man.
What is the light? It is the legacy and witness of the person to the world, the impression which he leaves behind him through his life. The city set on the hill shines forth light, and all the world knows it, knows what that city stands for (Matthew 5:14).
The lamp of the wicked, meanwhile, is temporary. They are a lamp, which shows forth light only for a time, and like lamps, they run out of fuel eventually. The wicked die, not just physically but spiritually. Even the elect die; in justification and adoption, the wicked man dies spiritually and is reborn, is made righteous (Romans 6:1-14). The un-elect, whom God permits to pursue their own wickedness and damnation, dies an eternal death, without recourse or remedy (Isaiah 66:15-24; Revelations 20:15). His light is snuffed out; he can no longer affect the world.
Ultimately, the effect the wicked man has on the world comes only from himself, from a creature. The effect of the righteous is the work of God through him. The effect of the creature can be erased, forgotten, or passed by; the work of the Creator cannot so easily be dismissed. It can, in fact, only be ignored through willful self-delusion (Romans 1:18-23).
What does this mean for us?
The glory of God is the original of this light which rejoices; as God rejoices, so His people rejoice, in imitation of and reverence towards Him (__). God has made a world which speaks ineluctably of His glory and His grace. Further, He has made for Himself a people, chosen from a sinful humanity, chosen from a race whose greatest desire is to hate Him, and this people He has saved by the sacrifice of Himself, of His Son (__). How can we do aught but rejoice that we may show forth the light of such a God?
O for a thousand tongues to sing,
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glory of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace.
~ Charles Wesley
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